How to Balance Self-Employment and Being Yourself

June 21, 2016

This is a story about contrasts — art and movement. It’s a story for anyone who’s considered branching out on their own and embracing the entrepreneurial life.

“So what do you do?”  cue my intake of breath with a self-conscious grin, ‘I do a lot of things.’

My name is Flory and I am an artist, designer, and personal trainer. This is how most people meet me and often times the reaction to this list crumples people’s faces and they ask next, “All of that? Why do you do so much? I mean, that’s cool, it’s an interesting combination!” I laugh with, “Yes. Because I want to.”

Growing up I was encouraged to approach all situations with an open mind and constantly reminded that there are multiple ways to look at things. I believe those perspectives are what have driven me to constantly explore and be proactive in learning from anything or anyone. I’m sure at one point in high school I stubbornly decided, ‘I may be a nerd, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be good at sports! I’m killing it in biology but I really just want to make striking art.’

In this post, I talk about some of the things I’ve learned since leaving full-time employment and how I’ve made the transition over the past few years.

Choosing my own path

After completing my undergraduate career with a couple years’ experience in an industry I left full-time employment to find out what I couldn’t do, and I am still discovering that today.

I’ve recently found myself in vast terrains that I am exploring within two particular realms that stimulate me and that I’m personally striving to master: art and movement. For me, these subjects are separate the way most people view them as they are the fine arts versus science, however, I participate in both on a daily basis. They feed each other in my world and simultaneously counteract their respective caveats. Working intuitively bleeds from my creative process into how I integrate health and fitness into my life and it’s my ability to communicate my own experiences that seem to help me most in connecting with other people who are trying to make positive changes in health and fitness.

Embracing self-employment and redefining success

The most challenging aspect of self-employment for me is less about time- I’m that girl who has been consistently using agendas since the tender age of 8 and loving it- but about validation. Such a big part of our human existence is our desire to be seen and heard for who we are and loved for it by the people we care about.

In self-employment, the markers for “success” aren’t necessarily the same or as clear as careers in conventionally defined positions. If you talk about entrepreneurship in itself, it is its own separate galaxy that has never been mapped the same way twice. I will openly confirm that there have been hours where I have felt absolutely crippled by my own internal dialogue, hesitation, and expectations. Being self-aware and applying it truthfully and diligently in self-love and self-care is pretty hard (like, really hard) but it can translate into your business. For me, it’s taught me so much more than I could ever imagine. I’m quite sure nothing is impossible and I do believe you can have it all; it just depends on what your definition of ‘all’ is and whether that happens in one single moment or throughout your entire lifetime.

This is where balance is key, but I’m speaking to more than just work and play, or hitting the gym after a social weekend. I watch a lot of people pursue balance through 50% of this and 50% of that or binary “if I binge here, I purge there” both socially as well as in health and fitness. I coach my clients on choosing quality over quantity because life is way too intrinsic for quantity to stay consistent. Naturally, our needs change on the daily and things comes up but it can’t look the same every day. It’s nothing ground-breaking: we all agree balance is important and completely subjective but the gold nugget at the core of it all is in learning to trust yourself consistently, in all areas of your life. In art and design, the creative is challenged to stay present in the process so that magic can happen, instead of being fixated on outcomes. In lifting, we have training days with terrible performance that we frustratingly grind through, but then we extend past the plateau. Do you have parallels there? I do.

Transition into self-employment without losing my sense of self

Art and movement take care of different parts of me and that’s how I stay healthy and happy, resulting in productivity and sanity. Being able to keep clear on my values prioritizes my days and weeks for me simply, which then build up to my milestones. The way one muscle group can impact the performance of another within the same body is the same as mind-body connection; I have personal boundaries but understand their relationships to each other. When I am physically rested and nourished, my mood is open and I’m cognitively functioning at my best.

Everything I do is deliberate and the feedback is rewarding: I solve a creative problem; I hit a personal best in the gym, or I’m able to be both as supportive of a friend I can be as well as a highly effective coach for my clients. By staying connected to the meaning in my art and movement I’ve been able to navigate back and forth between the two seemingly far realms and apply different perspectives from each within the other.

My go-to list of what nourishes me:

Adjusting to self-employment was one of the most difficult and rewarding decisions I ever made. Even though it may seem daunting to focus on anything but my work, it’s crucial that I also create space for myself so I don’t lose sight of who I am and the things I love.

Here are some of the things I’ve integrated into my routine that have helped me take on self-employment without losing my sense of self.

  • Solitude – People who have met me in the past several years are always surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert but as a sensitive empath I require time and space to process my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (I have a lot of them.) I will do different things for different reasons such as lots of running and walking with headphones plugged in; drawing but not writing at all or vice versa, and other times I go hardcore homebody and don’t speak to anyone out loud for up to a whole day.
  • Tribe – Aka friends and family, my safest space to be anything I need to be- especially in the middle of the messy and un-fun parts of personal growth. We get together to eat, be weird together, daydream, rant, and laugh. It’s so energizing to meet new people and develop these wonderful connections that open up completely different worlds of experience. It’s equally crucial to have people who aren’t afraid to call you out on your bullshit- we know better, but to be held accountable outside of ourselves always reveals more of what you can learn.
  • Sweat – It’s really never a good idea to go to bed during negative thought patterns or with a body that’s holding those feelings so I say: go sweat out your demons, sweat out your anger, sweat out your doubt, sweat out everything that you feel- because it’s real- but that you don’t need because it doesn’t serve you. (The other form of salt water, crying, is also highly recommended and always underrated! It doesn’t have to mean anything, just let your body do what it needs to. *Absolutely way easier said than done, I’m really bad at it and this almost makes me a hypocrite. Trust me, I’m working on it.) When I’m stuck on a creative problem or feeling anxious, I’ve learned to just put it down and walk, run, ride, lift, play. Once I get moving and come back into my body I’m able to literally reset and tackle the problem re-oriented.
  • Tea – The simple act of making tea from waiting for water to boil down to mixing the perfect amount of milk and honey, slows down time for me. And as someone who overthinks, this is an accessible task that also happens to be a simple joy.
  • Travel – I cover ground whenever I’m anxious or if I’m mentally stuck; whether it’s within the city or across countries. Although I don’t think work and play always have to be dichotomous, I really enjoy being learning through displacement. I am equally refreshed to leave my day-to-day as I am to come back to it after being in different cultures and communities.
  • Reading – As cliche as it is fiction displaces me very effectively without physical travel. My friends call me Grandma Flo.
  • Cleaning – I value order, so I declutter often and I love the feeling of making messes disappear. Real life tetris is another one of my skills I’m very proud of. You’ll find my living and working spaces tidy with everything in its own home.
  • Food – Savoury and sweet, I can eat all day and often do. It’s a great activity to share with company. Gotta eat to compete!

I’m humbled thisopenspace asked to feature me and so grateful that you are reading this! I really hope these words will make you feel something in one way or another.

Flory Huang

Pssst…Flory is having an art show at The Playground this month with Charlotte Spafford. The show, titled, B E C O M I N G, is a showcase for their latest visual art collections. These talented local artists’ exhibition is not to be missed. Opening night celebrations happen Monday from 7PM to late – 434 Columbia Street. Full details here…